Are Junkyard Parts Worth It? The Answer is Complicated

Recent supply chain issues are making it hard to get just about everything, you may be considering buying scrap car parts from a junkyard. Heck, even Toyota is using scratch-and-dent parts for its repairs because it can’t get a hand on enough OEM parts. Junkyard parts have their place, and they can be up to 80% cheaper than the exact same part new. But are scrap car parts worth it?

Are junkyard parts any good?

Junkyard parts surrounding a rusted old car in a scrapyard
Rusted old classic car at a junkyard | Sean Stratton via Unsplash

It’s a complicated question with a complicated answer. It comes down to “you get what you get.” You could find a car with a brand-new part that you need that ended up in a scrapyard through an unfortunate accident. But replacing an old, broken part with an equally old, not-yet-broken part won’t serve you in the long run. It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for, and 

Salvage yards can be inspirational for gearheads and DIYers. Amateur mechanics, automotive restorationists, and even the pros comb through thousands of junkyards every year looking for junk car parts to re-use. 

Some people even pick up junkyard picking as a hobby—they cruise wrecked cars looking for high-quality parts and then re-sell the used car parts. We don’t recommend counting on this as a legitimate side-hustle, though, because it’s a lot of work for what may not be a big payout.

Are scrapyards, junkyards, and wrecking yards the same?

Thousands of cars at a junkyard in Nevada; junkyard parts are a great deal
Nevada junkyard | George Rose/Getty Images

Yes—in classic American fashion, we are one of the only countries that call it a “junkyard.” The salvage industry is huge. While some cars do get crushed, many are stripped down for parts and sold as salvage equipment. Even those cars that do get crushed are recycled. Materials including glass, copper, steel, iron, and plastics can be recycled and turned into new materials for production cars.

How to buy car parts from a junkyard

Junkyards are great for used-car owners who are looking to save a few bucks. Lucky pickers can find all sorts of car parts at a scrapyard—whatever you can dream, you can find, if you look hard enough. Whether you need a single seatbelt, a full set of doors, or a whole new engine, larger junkyards are a wealth of resources. 

Be sure to contact your local junkyard to ask how they handle parts sales. Not all scrapyards function the same—many let customers walk around and shop on their own. Some junkyards may ask what you’re looking for and want to locate it themselves. Other yards may not sell parts directly at all, preferring to work with third-party companies. Some salvage yards even offer online inventory so you can browse available materials and equipment from your garage.

YourMechanic recommends removing the parts that need to be replaced and bringing them with you to the junkyard. This will not only help you practice removing the part, it will make sure you get the exact right part you need from the scrapyard.

These days, even totaled and wrecked cars are selling for surprisingly high prices, so you may pay more than you’d think for junk parts. But, it never hurts to look.

Are junk parts worth it over OEM parts?

Close up of a Mercedes Benz grille on an old, rusty classic car; junkyard parts are everywhere
Old Mercedes at a junkyard | Stan K. via Unsplash

Depending on what the market looks like, and what condition you can find them in, junk parts could be a worthwhile investment. A high-quality auto part is a high-quality auto part, after all. However, if you’re not confident in your scrap-picking skills or you need a very particular part that’s hard to find, it may be worth going with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts

Keep in mind, you could find genuine OEM parts in the junk cars that you find in the salvage yard—they just won’t be new, exact, or warrantied.

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